"Only 5.6% of the country uses condoms"
Salad Condoms is the brainchild of consumer psychologist and founder, Aruna Chawla.
The vegan-friendly condoms are non-toxic and eco-conscious, using natural latex that is fragrance-free.
Although this is not necessarily new, Chawla’s focus is primarily on educating people about safe sex and making it less stigmatic, especially in India.
As a psychologist and entrepreneur, part of her work involves researching decision-making and rationality.
She is a marketer with background knowledge in how people are making purchases.
She works with brands on strategy, digital customer journeys and customer interaction. It is these skills that motivated Chawla to create Salad Condoms.
Chawla wanted to make Salad Condoms an enjoyable experience that gives you added benefits.
Speaking exclusively to DESIblitz, she said: “I want Salad to be an opportunity to make conversations around sex mainstream.
“I want to make safe, fun sex accessible, affordable, and acceptable.”
Although the brand caters to multiple audiences, it is also impacting the conversation around sex in India.
Salad Condoms contribute 15% of its profits to enabling sex education in schools and colleges in India, a progressive and positive move on their part.
Aruna Chawla spoke more to us about the importance of sexual health and the inspiration behind Salad Condoms.
Try Salad for Sex
In a 2021 interview with Oo Womaniya, a platform for women’s needs, Chawla revealed the inspiration behind the brand’s name.
She highlighted that when first thinking of the name, she needed to see what the competition was focusing on:
“I think the whole deal with condoms is that they feel so inaccessible, especially for women because the marketing is catered more in favour of men.
“Whether with the design or research and development that focuses on last longer climax for men.”
Chawla realised that this pleasure focus was the problem. From a psychological standpoint, when a consumer buys a product for pleasure, it can become dispensable.
However, she wanted her product to be much more than that, revealing:
“I want our brand to resonate something of a critical importance which reminds you of your health and hygiene routine.”
So, Chawla wanted a name and a word that was simple yet meaningful and which comes with safe practice.
Additionally, she wanted to pick a name that had existing healthy connotations that one uses in their daily life.
Therefore, by choosing ‘Salad Condoms’, she was able to make an unconscious link between health and sex that was visible in daily life:
“If you’re going to a restaurant and now that you know there are a brand of condoms called Salad, every time you look at the menu you will think of that condom brand.”
“This will act as a recall value and for brands like ours.”
A critical link for Chawla. Many South Asians have negative or a minuscule introduction to sex growing up.
This leads to a host of issues later – lack of body confidence, difficulty in understanding our body’s needs and shying away from discussing sex.
These are all problems that Chawla wants to help solve.
Building the Brand
On asked about the research she conducted in India for Salad Condoms, Chawla shared a lot:
“So the research happened before the idea of the business came to me at all and that’s because as part of my work as a consumer psychologist.
“I am always looking at how industries in India are operating and how we can make online shopping experiences better from a business perspective.
“We found that offline shopping experiences are super broken. This part of the research led to appalling statistics.
“These are that only 5.6% of the country uses condoms [and] 47% uses no form of contraception at all.
“All the government campaigns are also marketed in the favour of preparing for an unplanned pregnancy.
“They never talk about STIs or other sorts of safety measures that a condom can offer.
“Also, access to gynaecologists and urologists is not available in large parts of the country as it’s considered a taboo.”
She shared that in the initial stages of the business, manufacturers did not take her seriously because they only saw her as a woman and not as a potential businessperson.
Although things changed after the brand launched, she also faced cyberbullying.
In her words: “I started getting cyber-harassed by people. But I don’t let any of these things bother me.
“I just focus on doing the job I need to do – this is bigger than me. My family and friends are my biggest advocates.
“Our community has also grown into ambassadors of our products and ethos.”
To get a better understanding of how Indians perceived sexual education in the country, Chawla talked to over 1000 people.
She concluded: “it’s very interesting, all of us know about sex.”
However, she also stated how people know a lot about sex but back off from a conversation about it.
But, the psychologist finds it daunting to know how similar this experience is across the country.
One interesting insight Chawla found was that only 1% of people had a ‘sex talk’ with their parents growing up.
This was only when both parents were working. Homemaker mothers for these generations usually seem to shy away from such conversations:
“I think this really goes to show the impact of education and empowerment on how the younger generations grow up.
“I think it is a unique phenomenon. We are a community-driven society, even within our families.”
Chawla is of the view that communities now have generations that are balancing traditions and modernity together:
“From what I see, our generation is more open-minded and accepting about lived realities with their children.
“They also convince their partners to practise using a contraceptive barrier.”
However, the main component of Salad Condoms is to promote this progress within society and culture.
In her research, Chawla noted how only 18% of India’s women are financially independent, an appalling statistic.
Not only does this affect multiple areas for women, but also their knowledge surrounding sexual health.
Chawla wants Salad Condoms to be as accessible as a product as it is an educational tool.
Women in India find it difficult to access these resources physically, so with internet access becoming easier, women can start to educate themselves:
“One reason why we decided to be an online-first brand and we haven’t started distribution [in stores] yet is so that we could reach to these women.
“Interestingly in terms of the kind of research we are doing, about 52 to 54% of our customers and followers are women.
“The rest are obviously men which means that we are able to provide [more women] with a space to express their concerns and they can voice their opinions.”
Salad Condoms as a product are for all, but evidently, the brand’s ambitions stretch far further for women.
Condoms with a Difference
Aruna Chawla explains how Salad Condoms wants to promote body positivity with its USP focused on building this ideology, as well as advertising safer practices:
“There’s a long, long way to go.
“But my hope is that our work – physical products and the mobile app we are currently beta testing – will help women have a better relationship with their body and themselves.”
Aruna disclosed that the mobile app, which is launching in 2022, has immersive, audio-guided experiences that can help people understand their bodies:
“It’s a mix of medical expertise, self-care practices with therapy sessions.
“Almost 500 people are testing the app for us and we have received constructive feedback.”
The app will also encompass different aspects of your sexuality and health.
It will cover things like the science of orgasms, communicating your needs, setting up boundaries etc.
Therefore, helping more South Asians understand sexual parameters.
As mentioned before, the brand has an eco-conscious approach to its products. This is highly important as Chawla expresses:
“I really believe we have to be really conscious of our impact on the environment itself.
“It has to be built into your business strategy, this is not optional, so that was very clear to me.
“I am going to take as many steps as possible to ensure there is the least amount of wastage…and least amount of damage to the environment.”
Looking back on her journey when she started Salad Condoms, Chawla spoke of her efforts in networking to further the brand’s exposure.
She built connections and spent almost 10 months speaking with manufacturers about testing out different samples and variants in the market.
Out of her research, the entrepreneur thought of a technological feature that would propel Salad Condoms:
“We are the only condom brand to have an ingredient list available on our website.”
“There is a QR code [on the packet] which can be scanned with a phone that directs you to the website and gives you a list of ingredients.”
She further revealed that any new product that is launched goes through rigorous analysis and is also 100% electronically tested:
“We want to take that standard. We will do as much in our capacity or as the business allows us to do to be as conscious as possible.”
Another vital component of Salad Condoms is that it is extremely cost-effective. The brand managed to do it by abiding by the prices set by the government:
“We didn’t want to take any risk and instead we decided to stick to the price of Rs 9.15 per condom.”
Interestingly, Chawla credited Shopify in helping her start Salad Condoms and highlight the importance of product safety and business costs.
Aruna’s terrific insight into helping the people of India enjoy sex whilst also desensitising sexual education is fascinating.
This woman-owned brand is redefining the sexual wellness industry.
It is acting as a catalyst for South Asian women cleverly. Of course, the ideal customer is males, however, the actual audience it caters to is much more vast.
This comes in the form of its educational purposes. So, it not only gives women a safer space to explore their sexuality but provides more knowledge to the younger generation.
Eco-friendly, non-toxic chemicals and discreet packaging are just some of the reasons why this brand is so refreshing.
Check out more of Salad Condoms here.